I think for the first time in my life, I’m struggling to find words.
I’ve known this is coming—this task of writing my last blog from Australia, and I’ve tried to write it in my head a million times. I’ve imaginarily written and imaginarily erased dozens of times, because I’m so afraid I won’t do this post justice. I feel fiercely protective of this place that has become home, of friends who have been family to a ragamuffin, needy Phillips party of six for the last seven years.
I want you to know how great they are. I want you to know how beautiful this country is. I want you to know the extent to which our hearts are breaking to leave. I want you to know that we feel split in two—thankful for what’s ahead, but aching because of who we’re leaving behind. What if I don’t say it well? I want to say it well.
My emotions have been fairly unpredictable these last few months, crying at unexpected times and sometimes not crying in the big moments that would warrant tears, but for some reason, I consistently cry when I sit in my special spot on my front porch. Part of it is the beauty of God’s creation—it reminds me of how much I’m going to miss this land. But mostly, it’s the people who have sat with me at that table, the conversations that I’ve had there. The tears cried together there.
It’s at that table, in that special spot, that I’m reminded of how God abundantly answered so many of the prayers I prayed before we came here:
“God, would you give me friends? I don’t think you’ll give me friends…”
“God, could we possibly make a difference?”
“God, will I be seen, known, and loved?”
“God, is it going to be worth it? I feel like a truck is standing on my chest. You’re asking me to leave everything and everyone I know and love. Is it worth it? I don’t feel like it’s worth it…”
I sit at that table and I see faces. I hear conversations. I feel seven years’ worth of tears on my face, cried with and for the souls who sat at that table and said, “Here I am. I’m a mess,” and then I said, “I am too.” I hear voices pushing me to better, gently calling out my unbelief and reminding me that I’m a child of the King. I see hearts realize, some for the very first time, “Oh. He loves me. He really, really loves me.” I see them cry tears of relief. I see the shame melt away.
I see my mom, who’s paid ridiculous amounts of money to come visit me five times in seven years, who sat at that table with her coffee and loved this place right alongside me. I see her set aside her own pain of separation to champion the life I’ve had here. I hear her telling me when times got hard, “Keep going. Do the next thing. One foot in front of the other—you can do this.”
I see my kids learning to drink tea hot instead of cold and playing board games with new friends and bravely, bravely learning to do life in a new place. I see us wrestling through the big questions together.
I see Brian and I weighing a pros/cons list of returning to the States. I see us struggling, torn. I see a wise friend sitting with me on a different day, gently nudging, “I think you know it’s time to leave.”
When I step away from the maddening logistics of moving and sit in my special spot, the world gets quiet and I feel the answers to all of those prayers prayed by a terrified young mom who did not want to leave a life she knew and loved to fly to the other side of the world:
“I gave you friends. They have loved and served you so, so well. They’ve made you laugh, too.”
“You made a difference. You may not see all the ways now, but you can trust Me with that.”
“You have been seen. You have been known. And guess what? They didn’t run away. They loved you—all of you.”
“It has been worth it. Every bout of homesickness, every Thanksgiving morning spent crying, the loss of a life you did not want to end…it’s been worth it a thousand times over.”
And I hear Him say, “I have provided, and I will provide.”
So here we are. The sweet, painful close of one chapter. The scary opening of another. He has provided, and He will again.
At our last church service yesterday, our pastor began the prayer time for our family by reading some of Bringing Lucy Home, which was really mean of him because I was decently holding it together up until that point. Here’s what he read—words I wrote nearly four years ago, after I reunited with my family in Australia after months of separation:
“Early in this trial, a friend prayed that ‘the ache you feel for home would remind you of the real soul ache we always have to be with our Savior in heaven.'”
I know what it feels like to ache for home. When we moved to Australia three years ago, I longed for the familiarity and presence of family and friends. I’d cry and tell Brian, “I want to go home!” meaning America. Fast-forward three years, and I experienced that same ache, but this time it was for Australia, where my husband and babies were.
Neither America nor Australia are perfect places. As awesome of a job Brian and the kids did with cleaning the house in preparation for my homecoming, today there are more dirty dishes, unmade beds, and clothes to wash. As beautiful as my kids are, they will still argue and test my patience.
As much as I longed to be here, my friend was right. The utmost purpose of that longing was to remind me that I’m not home yet, and I won’t be until Heaven, when Jesus will make all things right again.
Oh, to long for my ultimate home with Jesus with an intensity that surpasses the longing I had for my husband and children. I pray that I will hold this life loosely, living each day as if it were THE day, when I will finally be Home with Him, for good.
Today is a day of tears. Of longing. Of leaving one temporary home to return to another. But one day? Heaven. Home. Real, true, lasting, unchanging, never-say-goodbye-again Home. Keep me faithful ’til then, Jesus. And help me to love as well as I have been loved.